Archive for August 2005

A River Runs Through It

The hills of Buda adorned with architectural wonders, the flat Pest similarly adorned, and the raging Danube between them – I did not know that is what makes up Budapest. Very beautiful. But first and foremost, let me say that after almost a month on the road han solo, it is good to see friends, and even better to see family. My cousin Andy and I on the Raday utca right out front of our hotel. The Raday is a nice pedestrian street full of cafes where we ended up hanging out regularly

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I spoke to my Mom while in Budapest, and she proceeded to express her outrage at my failure to identify the museums and cathedrals that I had photographed in Vienna, choosing instead to describe in exhaustive details the bar that I drank at. As a result, I have saved the Budapest guide and will now consult it as I write this entry which will be rich in description of Budapest history and sights. Mom, feel free to skip the final few paragraphs of this entry which will feature your son, your three nephews and two friends drinking beers and enjoying themselves at a fine beer garden on the Danube.

Shortly after arriving in Budapest, I contact Andras Balasy who I know from DC, who is Hungarian and who happens to be in Budapest at the time. Andras informs me that we were in Budapest for the best weekend of the year, that Saturday is Constitution Day and St. Stephen’ Day, the equivalent of the U.S. July 4th in Hungary. St. Stephen’s Day?? But for the ph instead of the v, he is of course the most important saint in my mind. Once the boys have arrived, Andras assumes the role of tour guide and shows us the essentials of Budapest. Here he is leading us down into the bowels of Pest onto the Metro, on the fastest escalator I have even been on. We all jumped off at the bottom for fear of our flip flops being sucked into the grill.

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First stop is St. Stephen’s Basilica, very impressive from the outside

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but even more impressive on the inside because of what it contains. Look closely at the next picture, what you are seeing inside the ornate box is the actual mummified hand of St. Stephen

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Of course I mull over Grateful Dead lyrics while looking at this hand, coming up with “Saint Stephen will remain, all he’s lost he shall regain.” At any rate, Andras whisks us out of the church quickly and on to our next stop, over the river to Castle Hill in Buda.

The view from the front of the Four Seasons Hotel Budapest, looking out over Chain Bridge and across to Buda

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Crossing the bridge, looking south down the Danube at Elizabeth Bridge, the Statue of Liberty on the Buda hills to the right

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Once up in the castle, we are treated to a Hungarian version of the Air Sea show, an aerobatic pilot flying up and down the Danube performing awesome maneuvers

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Pretty sweet view of Pest from the old hills of Buda

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We saw an incredible fireworks display on the Saturday night that was set off simultaneously from all four bridges in Budapest. It was far better than any display I have seen in DC for July 4th.

Another place we visited was the Great Market Hall, recently restored, this place is about the size of a football field inside, featuring endless stands selling various items, although to us it seemed like the most common thing for sale was cured meat

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That pretty much sums up the sight seeing, except for the Budapest waters. Apparently 30,000 cubic meters of warm mineral water gush out of a geological fault every day underneath Budapest, so the town is full of baths and pools filled by this water. These thermal waters supposedly have therapeutic effects, and so when Andy and I woke up Saturday morning feeling in need of therapy, we decided to make our way to the Szechenyi Baths. Not knowing what to expect, we entered the building, checked our valuables into a locker, and walked out into the courtyard. With my own camera in the locker, I couldn’t snap a photo, but here is a borrowed photo of what we walked into

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Pretty amazing pool area, and within the yellow walls are all sorts of thermal hot tubs, saunas and steam rooms. After a day here, we were in great shape for Saturday night.

A shot of our favorite beer garden in town, apparently built only days before in anticipation of Constitution Day

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Great having Casey there in addition to the three cuzzes

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As far as the nights went, let’s just say that the sky had turned from black to blue on a few of them when we nodded off. We were shown some cool places like Rio, an open air club right on the banks of the Danube, and we also stumbled into a few cool places on our own that were not on any of the maps that we had. I had heard that Budapest was a city renowned for a good time and beautiful women, and I don’t think any of us were disappointed in that respect. I think this street sign that David found pretty much sums up what a lot of people expect and find out of Budapest.

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And with that, as Tom Germuska might conclude, “nuf said.”

Also, props to John Paflas for recognizing the “where the sun is always over the yardarm” subtitle to this blog, for which all credit goes to Jimmy Andrews.

More to come soon on Bratislava, Prague and Berlin (where I just arrived).